Driven to Help Others
Armando Banda said his shift in faith can be traced to when he and his wife Olga were having marriage difficulties. Banda said he remembers sitting in a pew at St. Catherine’s, seeking inspiration, looking up at the crucifix at the altar and asking: “Help me understand you better.”
At the time, it seemed nothing happened, but now in retrospect he said, he can see how his life was mapped out completely since that moment.
“Hindsight is 20/20,” said Banda, 43.
Banda, a Laveen resident, is active in St. Catherine’s Catholic Church. He leads a men’s prayer group each week and is instrumental in helping other men recognize and explore their spirituality.
“There is a character in Armando that is very interesting,” said Fernando Ruiz CEO of Raza Development Fund and a member of the prayer group.
“For someone who grew up in South Phoenix, he is what I consider – and I mean this in a positive way – a barrio guy and at the same time, he has a deep character as a professional in the Real Estate business. He is also very spiritual. When I use the word spiritual I mean he is trying to live a very Catholic kind of life. He uses that that skill set to organize other men.”
When Banda started the men’s prayer group at St. Catherine’s, Ruiz said Banda didn’t strike him as the “evangelistic” type.
“He was not running around with a Bible shouting Hallelujah,” Ruiz said.
Instead he was being a role model of how they could grow as men, with their family, in their profession and be active in the community through the Catholic faith.
“He has hard core guys who had been in prison, guys who are drug addicts who have gotten themselves together, guys who are professionals and old hard-working guys like myself.
“To me he was a breath of fresh air,” he said.
Bando said he spiritual awakening began in 1992.
“I guess I can go back to when my wife and I were married in 1992 in a civil ceremony.
They wanted to get married in the church, but he had not had his first communion, which he needed to do before a church wedding.
Father Doug said he would allow the wedding if Banda promised to finish the process.
He told the priest he would.
Even after the church ceremony, the couple struggled with their roles as husband and wife, he said. They decided to go to a church-sponsored Marriage Encounter group to help them try to learn to communicate. It worked and it was the catalyst for finishing up his religious education and having his first communion.
“This was really the beginning of the honeymoon phase of my spiritual life,” he said. “I was a church rat. I was absolutely head-over-heels in love with the church. I could not get enough of it.”
As the years have passed, his church rat phase has subsided, but his faith remains stronger than ever.
“I wear my faith on my sleeve. I am not afraid to show my faith,” he said.
He manages to attract all kinds of men to his Saturday class that begins at 8 a.m.
The motto of the group is Proverbs 27:17 “As Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”
“I’m close friends with them, not just on Saturday mornings. We try to make our group exciting by getting involved in certain activities throughout the year,” he said.
When it is suggested he attracts the men, he is not so sure about that.
“Well, I don’t know if I attract them. I think we attract them to what we are doing. I think they find comfort and inspiration and hope and through it consistency knowing every Saturday we will be there,” he said.
He said they help each other learn to live as the spiritual leader of the family and to share faith with others.
And they have fun. One of the highlights of the year is the father/son camping trip, he said.
Another highlight is the Catholic Men’s Conference to which a growing number of men from St. Catherine’s attend each year.
“In 2010 we brought 12 men; in 2011 we brought 60; in 2012 it was 89; and this year we brought 317 men,” Banda said.
Those attending from St.Catherine’s were 10 percent of the total 3,000 attendees at the Grand Canyon University event.
“He worked our butts off. He committed to the bishop 300 men from St. Catherine’s and we signed up 317,” Ruiz said.
Banda grew up in South Phoenix where the influences were not always good.
“My Mom and dad divorced when I was 11,” he said.
A painter for most of his adult life, he switched to Real Estate in the middle of the economic melt down, but he has been successful in spite of it.
He has remained in the area despite his success.
“I have roots here. This is what is home to me,” he said.
The Bandas, who are now happily married, have two sons, AJ, 26 and Chris, 23 and one grandchild Nicholas, 5.
Banda said he could not do all that he does without the support of his wife.